Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Irony of Ironies: The skeptics prove the Torah works.

I have been watching more or less on the sidelines the raging debate between so-called skeptics and Rabbi Maroof on the various Blogs. To tell the truth I find myself cold and very bewildered about the commotion. Rabbi Maroof is valiantly trying to defend the Mesora from a historical perspective while others are trying to show inconsistencies and question the historicity of the stories in Tanach and Chazal. Some are enamored of the DH while others question the ethics and humaneness of the Torah laws. Belief in God and Torah min Hashamayim is questioned and all based on a completely, to me, erroneous understanding of what it is all about. Let me explain:

The way I see it is that the Torah is suggesting that man needs to address his existential issues and try to understand what he is doing here. The Torah suggests that to find the answer to this question one must try to find God, understand how He operates, what His plans are for the Universe and emulate Him partaking in its continuity. The Torah introduces us to the Avot starting with Avraham who apparently was the first one to have succeeded in getting a following in his quest. All previous philosophers, for varied reasons, did not go beyond their own personal insights. Avraham however succeeded to plant a kernel of this idea into people.

יט כִּי יְדַעְתִּיו, לְמַעַן אֲשֶׁר יְצַוֶּה אֶת-בָּנָיו וְאֶת-בֵּיתוֹ אַחֲרָיו, וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהוָה, לַעֲשׂוֹת צְדָקָה וּמִשְׁפָּט--לְמַעַן, הָבִיא יְהוָה עַל-אַבְרָהָם, אֵת אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר, עָלָיו.
19 For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him.'
(Breishis 18:19)

However without a formal structure of beliefs, rituals and laws it took only a few hundred years of hardship for Avraham’s ideas to almost disappear. That is the story told about Egypt and the Galut there. Moshe realized that for this way of thinking to have longevity and survive the vicissitudes of time it would have to be anchored in a system of beliefs, rituals and laws.

It is also clear that the answers cannot be found in a short time not even a generation but it will be the work of humanity over millennia. First we have to understand how the universe operates and at each step of the way, at every discovery of a new law, the search for God, for the ontological interpretation of existence, a new approach has to be developed to fit the new understanding. This system of beliefs, rituals and laws would have to be deep rooted but at the same time extremely adaptable so that it can exist in tandem with all possible future developments and understandings. The purpose of the societal laws (bein Adam lacheveiro) is to first make sure that society can function smoothly. Without a smoothly running society people are too preoccupied with personal survival to give them the leisure to address existential questions. It also has rituals that make one think about existence, the world and its creation, the Creator and all the other questions that need addressing. Some of those rituals are open ended without a clear reason other than to make one question and think. Basically the Torah has set up a system that touches every moment of a person’s life; from the minute he wakes until he goes back to sleep there is always something to remind him that he has to retain a perspective about his existence. By being aware of all his actions, by imposing a rule on everything he does, by making him do things a person is reminded to think about the entity that put these rules in place namely God.

For this system to work, while being adaptable, it has to have a strong foundation that is immutable otherwise with time it will lose its value. Thus we accepted that the torah Moshe gave us, the Torah Shebiktav and Sheba’al peh, is like a constitution. It is interpretable to a degree but the basic concepts have to remain unchanged. We therefore accepted that it is Min Hashamayim. Something happened during the time of Moshe that convinced all to accept for them and for generations to come, that this Torah will remain unchanged. To make this a strong commitment we agreed to accept that every single word was agreed to by HKBH directly with Moshe. Note the language Rambam (from the Gemara) uses to legislate this rule:

יז שלושה הן הכופרים בתורה: האומר שאין התורה מעם ה', אפילו פסוק אחד, אפילו תיבה אחת--אם אמר משה אמרו מפי עצמו, הרי זה כופר בתורה; וכן הכופר בפירושה, והיא תורה שבעל פה, והכחיש מגידיה, כגון צדוק ובייתוס; והאומר שהבורא החליף מצוה זו במצוה אחרת, וכבר בטלה תורה זו, אף על פי שהיא הייתה מעם ה', כגון הנוצריים וההגריים. כל אחד משלושה אלו כופר בתורה

Note how Rambam uses the word האומר – one who says – not one who believes otherwise. We are not interested in the proof, the historical fact; we are only interested in the acceptance. When Rambam talks about God he uses the word Leidah, to know, because one has to prove that, when he talks about prophecy he also uses Leidah, because that is a concept that is provable. Here it is something we have to accept and not prove. The same for Yetziat Mitzraim, the Exodus, we also have to remember and not prove. We have to remember it because it teaches us many basic concepts about freedom, providence and evil.

I am not saying Chas Veshalom that it is all a myth, that it is a made up story. I believe it happened in some form or other. Every story told in the Torah is an interpretation of a happening in a way that teaches us how to look at things in our experience. The historicity is irrelevant though for its purpose. I look at all who spend time trying to figure out how the torah was composed, the DH ands all the other theories, no different from those who waste their time in pilpulim without purpose. (See my last post). It may be an interesting exercise but to what purpose?

Now let us see if the system works. Well just the debate on the Blogs, the skeptics and the defenders of the tradition, all of us prove how well it worked. By agreeing and rebelling we are discussing God and are keenly aware of Him, whether in a positive or a negative way. Mis-nagid, XGH, Ben Avuyah, Big S Skeptic, Mike Skeptic, DNA and all the rest just like RJM, Y. Aharon and all their supporters prove that the system works extremely well. You are all debating God and His ways and that is the only way to find Him.

That is the point Rambam makes at end of Hilchot Melachim (chapter 11:12 - 13):

כיצד: כבר נתמלא העולם כולו מדברי המשיח, ומדברי התורה ומדברי המצוות, ופשטו דברים אלו באיים רחוקים, ובעמים רבים ערלי לב; והם נושאים ונותנים בדברים אלו, ובמצוות התורה--אלו אומרים מצוות אלו אמת היו, וכבר בטלו בזמן הזה, ולא היו נוהגות לדורות. ואלו אומרים דברים נסתרות יש בהם, ואינן כפשוטן, וכבר בא משיח, וגילה נסתריהם.
יג וכשיעמוד המלך המשיח באמת, ויצליח וירום ויינשא--מיד הם כולן חוזרין ויודעים ששקר נחלו אבותיהם, ושנביאיהם ואבותיהם הטעום.

When the nations debate whether the Torah is true or not they are moving a step closer towards ultimately finding the truth.

Now that I got this off my chest, back to the sources. It is there that we will find the way to HKBH.

30 comments:

  1. > Note how Rambam uses the word האומר – one who says – not one who believes otherwise. We are not interested in the proof, the historical fact; we are only interested in the acceptance. When Rambam talks about God he uses the word Leidah, to know, because one has to prove that, when he talks about prophecy he also uses Leidah, because that is a concept that is provable. Here it is something we have to accept and not prove. The same for Yetziat Mitzraim, the Exodus, we also have to remember and not prove. We have to remember it because it teaches us many basic concepts about freedom, providence and evil.

    I am not saying Chas Veshalom that it is all a myth, that it is a made up story. I believe it happened in some form or other. Every story told in the Torah is an interpretation of a happening in a way that teaches us how to look at things in our experience. The historicity is irrelevant though for its purpose. I look at all who spend time trying to figure out how the torah was composed, the DH ands all the other theories, no different from those who waste their time in pilpulim without purpose. (See my last post). It may be an interesting exercise but to what purpose?


    Look,David,for the life me I can't figure out what you are saing.
    You are not addressing the main issues.

    1. God.The Rambam can use the word *leda* but that doesn't mean it's proveable.It's not.This has been recognized by most thinkers for many centuries.Rambam saying so is not a prove.I remember when the Rambam discusses hashgachah,he dismisses Apikores' view by saying that world coudn't have been created by accident & THAT ARISTOTLE already proved it.That's not a proof.
    That one may state a million times that there is a prove.doesn't mean there is one,Of all the books I read by Scienticts & philosophers,few, if any ,claimed there is proof for Gods existence.
    It's theologians (some) who claim it.
    But a theologian,unlike a philosopher,assumes the existence of God in the first place(after all that what the word means.
    The Rambam was a theologian.

    2. Please state clearly if you believe that that the Torah we possess today was given to Moshe,& that moshe like a 'sopher', dictated to him,copied it word by word from God,like Rambam states.
    You told me that Rambam didn't mean it literally.
    My question: why when he says 'leda' he means it lit. but when he describes how Moshe received it,Rambam doesn't mean what he explicitly says..?


    3.The historicity of the Torah is very important. TORAT HASHEM TEMIMAH,.A God that dictates a book,unlike human IS TO BE PERFECT,otherwise,its' not from God.
    Do you believe,the Torah is a perfect book.NOT JUST A MORAL GUIDE!(BTW,the idea that torah is just a moral guide,comes from the Reform).

    Do you believe that chazal & Rishonim had greater insight on understanding of the Textus Receptus? than we do,& why so ?
    I can understand that in a legal system such as is Halachah,which includes rituals,needs to be based on precedence like in any other legal system.So Mishnaic law has preference over later laws etc.
    But when it comes to hashkafot do you accept their saying "im rishonim kemalachim etc."
    I mean why would Ralbags understanding of the Torah text be of greater significance than let's say of someone today who knows well Hebrew & reads the same text?
    You keep writing that if we only studied & knew all the shitot of the Rishonim,we would get to the truth.
    Do you ascribe to them supernatural knowledge or insight?

    These are just a few of the questions I have.
    I'll be away from the comp. till after Shabbat,so I wont see any comment from you till then.
    Shabbat Shalom

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  2. Firstly, I must apologize for the typos in the above comment.I have eye problems.


    > The historicity is irrelevant though for its purpose.


    Here I must strongly disagree.
    A book claimed to have been written-dictated- given by God CAN NOT contain any historical or any other errors.
    A book that contains such errors coudn't have been given ipso facto by God.
    Surely,God could write a book without historical or other errors!
    It's beyond my understanding how people think this could be the case.
    The only answer I can think of is :
    people want to believe in the Torah,for whatever reason.But then they see it contains historical & other errors & inconsistencies,so b'let b'rerah they either turn to Kabbalah to seek mystical explanations or they willy-nilly embrace the attitude of the Protestant Higher Criticism School,accepted by the Reform,that historical inaccuracies & other errors do not take away the divinity from them & that they are still Divinely inspired.
    The are JUST a guide for moral living.As for the *klippah* of that guide,no special attention needs to be given to it.
    Please correct me,but isn't it essentially what you are saying?
    And isn't it what the Zohar says somewhere:"Woe to those who think that the Torah just writes stories,for even today we could write better stories"(quoting from memory).
    The way I was raised & in the Yeshivah that I attended it was axiomatic that the whole Torah,without exception,was given to Moshe by God.How does rambam say,that Esavs pilagshim,Timna,etc are just as important as the word "anochi".
    So how can one say historical inaccuracies are irrelevant?...
    That has always been the belief of Traditional Judaism.
    Personally,I think that many MO jews are trying to rewrite history of the Jewish religion.

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  3. Skeptics prove the Torah works? So when those same skeptics argue against the historicity of Mormonism's historical claims and morality, Christianity's historical claims and morality, etc., they're proving they all work? All you've shown is that things that are not true spawn debate from skeptics when believers espouse them. Congratulations.

    In the maskanahm, skeptics don't prove the Torah works. Rather, this post shows that believers lack sufficient critical thinking skills.

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  4. (And the first two comments show the same thing as the post.)

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  5. Anonymous, You are making my point. Christians discuss whether the old testament is still applicable, they discuss the trinity in the context of God's uniqueness, the Muslims discuss God as the source of Muhammad's prophecy, the Moromons , who i know little about, I am sure discuss their prophet in context with the one God. The idolaters discussed Zeus, apollo, Ra etc... and God did not enter their thoughts. So yes Mormonism, christianity, Islam do work to an extent thanks to their grandfather religion, Judaism. And the skeptics prove it!

    So who is lacking critical thinking skills?

    Ytschak as you gave me until after Shabbat I will reply to your comments later.

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  6. Science and Religion1/18/2007 1:12 PM

    Your article is very interesting and one that I completely agree with in one sense. The acceptance of God is an axiom to the system in the same way as the parallel postulate is an axiom to Euclidean Plane geometry. The only issue (and the one which ignites debate on the blogs you mention) is when someone tries to prove the base axiom using logic. In mathematics an axiom is accepted as self evidently true, either because it is observable or because of the reductio ad absurdum (proving the inverse is false).

    In other words the debates on the blogs are between the valiant Rabbi Maroof on one hand who attempts to prove the unprovable axiom and those that know that Judaism the system cannot self referentially validate itself by logical proof. The skeptics have a much harder time dealing with people who say "I accept the following statements axiomatically" and do not offer proof.

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  7. I think that this kind of argument gets you into a territory that injures the spirit and emasculates belief. Much better to say - yes, the Truth is BIG and we are limited, there are proofs for and against, we can't encompas it all, and ultimately we have to make up our minds based on partial evidence. This is rational and we can then discuss which evidence is more determinative.

    For a discussion of Fideism in a similar context see

    http://www.avakesh.com/2007/01/question_of_fai.html

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  8. Science and Religion1/18/2007 6:40 PM

    I would argue that there is a slippery slope here that is being missed in denigrating the skeptics. They are struggling with their faith as you say and those people who debat them are trying to convince them as to why they should believe. Rather than be honest and admit that they do not know the answers to the deep questions of the skeptic, they adopt the language of the skeptic, a "scientific" approach that is totally out of character with the ethos of science.

    In a recent interview in the Jerusalem Post, Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger was asked the following question:

    Question: "how would you approach a Jew who has fallen off the derech? " In other words, how would you convince them that Judaism is the way live.

    Rabbi Metzger: The true answer is "because this is the only true way and there is no other." There are not several truths and the way of Judaism is the only one that can be logically proven.

    This idea of a logical proof, that somehow a Kuzari argument or other approach can prove Judaisms truth is at the root of much of these debates. The problem for a skeptic, especially a western educated skeptic is that such proofs are fundamentally unrigorous in a mathematical sense and thus, while logical, they represent no real proof at all.

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  9. Science and Religion:

    I am not sure axiom is the right word. The way I see it is that we know by observation a few things. There is a universe which seems to have as a cause an entity we refer to as God. (Note I did not say 'create" just cause.) If we want to get an answer on why are we here and how should we act, it would seem that searching for some kind of understanding of how that entity works would be quite productive. The torah is a method that helps us accomplish that goal. For it to work it requires certain commitments and acceptances. There is a paper by Yakov Bacher, an early 20th century maimonidean scholar that claimed to have elucidated the secret of the MN that being that there are necessary beliefs and real beliefs. It is an old idea already discussed in the medieval philosophers (R. Nissim of Marseilles for one ). I don't buy it as my experience with Rambam is that he is starightforward and consistent, but there is something about accepting ontological interpretations.

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  10. I am unclear on your point about "haOmer". Rambam uses that expression for every category of individual who has no chelek. When Rambam discusses the historical proof for Torah in the 8th chapter of Y'sodei HaTorah he uses the term emuna which is related to the fact that we saw and heard certain events at least indirectly through testimony.

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  11. Science and Religion : I am not denigrating the skeptics but on the contrary I consider them the true searchers. I am trying to make the point that they would profit much more questioning matters of faith rather than historical and other such questions. Trying to understand why we do things, ta'amei hamitzvot, whether the world is eternal or temporal, is there an entity behind the universe and so on would be important questions that could be discussed intelligently. The historical background of Yetziat Mitzraim for example is totally irrelevant if you see it in the context of teaching us about ourselves. the asme about the historicity of Sinai is irrelevant. What is relevant is trying to understand revelation, prophecy in a contemporary context.It impinges on human ability and perfection.

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  12. Yehuda, Haomer refers to what one says not what one believes. Belief is only if proven rationally or through personal experience. In Yesodei Hatorah he says that the people agreed to accept Moshe's Torah as immutable (rather than any else) because they experienced something that convinced them that he is worthy for this acceptance.

    A later day miscreant would have to base his emuna on acceptance not on "belief" and that is why he uses Haomer, he rejects acceptance.

    BTW Vegam becha Ya'aminu le'olam is understood both by Rambam and Ramban to mean that his Torah will be immutable and no later prophet can overturn it.

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  13. Avakesh, I am not sure what you are saying. I believe trying to set oneself up for unprovable beliefs is emasculating and dangerous. One has to be clear of what needs to be proven as fact and what has to be accepted as obligatory.

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  14. Ytschak, let me address each of your comments but first let me enjoy myself a little. You are the biggest proof that Torah system works. You, a self avowed non observant Jew, are one of the most religious men I know. You live in Israel, half of your children are observant notwhistanding their non observant upbringing and you are busy trying to understand why you should or should not believe in God. Torah Machzeret al achsanya shela!

    Now to substance:

    God: I know we have argued this over and over but I cannot see how we can accept the existence of everything which is quite clearly there through a system of cause and effect, without a Firast Cause of some kind. Not necessarily First in a temporal way but First in a cause and effect way. that being the case that First Cause is an irregularity as He has no cause. that would by definition the only such entity therefore unique. Whether He acts, wills and so on is already a matter of acceptance and a way of interpreting what you would call an ontological interpretaion. However the fact that a unique First Cause has to exist to me is unquestionable.

    Historicity of the torah: of course everything the Torah writes is true. The stories however have to be understood in the context of what they taech us. The Torah will only present the details that have a meaning for future generations. it is not a history book. It refers you to them "al kein Ye'amer besefer Milchamot Hashem" etc... but it tells you only a relevant piece of the story. There is no way that you could extrapolate from the little snippets that it tells us what happened in a full context.

    Re Torah, I clearly declare that Moshe had a type of revelation called Panim el Panim that resulted in everything he wrote in the Torah was approved by God in such a way that one can say he dictated to him word by word. Clearly he wrote it over a period of 40 years according to Megila megila nichteva and ba'al peh for 40 years according to Chatuma Nitna. According to both he wrote it down in 12 editions at the end of 40 years in Arvot Moav.

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  15. Ytschak. please understand the Torah does not contain any historical errors. I don't know of any that can be pointed to. I see the debates about the 600,000. I understand that to mean a great number. I also understand Chazal when they say "Shisha bekeres echad" to tell you don't take the number seriously as it could not ahppen in such a short time. the erev Rav story augmented by chazal is a similar point. (Others points too but this also)

    I don't think that there is a need to turn to kabbalah to explain that.

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  16. Now I am not sure what you were saying in your post. You were trying to prove something from "haOmer". I agree that the categories of people referred to there do not need to prove their k'fira, apikorsus, etc. they "say" their belief.

    My question is how does "haOmer" show that one does not have to prove Har Sinai and Y'tziat Mitzraim? I, of course, realize that one does not have to prove these things in the same way as m'tziuto. Knowledge of historical events is not "proved" in the same way.

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  17. Rambam is saying that someone who says that moshe wrote mipi atzmo ein lo chelek. It is only for stating that that he loses ol;am haba . If he is unsure that moshe wrote shelo mipi atzmo because he cannot prove it but does not state so he still gets olam haba.

    That is my point. However if one does not believe metziut hashem even if he does not state it he is still not mekayem the mitzvah of yediat hashem. In fact if he says without believing it that God exists he is over on Anochi the asseh according to Rambam.

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  18. Yehudah, giving it some thought you are probbaly right Ha'omer is not such a great proof. Rambam uses it for someone who denies metziut hashem too.

    It still does not change my argument as you point out.

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  19. Yehudah now you got me off on another track: teshuva 3:7
    חמישה הן הנקראין מינים: האומר
    שאין שם אלוה, ואין לעולם מנהיג

    He lumps together the two metzius and manhig. (count 5 and you will see). Does that mean that a believer in metziut but a denier of Manhig is not a min? What would be his status re olam haba?

    I am tempted to argue that a denier in a First Cause is nonsense and is not rational. It is undeniable.It is only a willing God a manhig that could be denied. I would therefore read it as one one who says that there does not exist a God that is manhig. (my proof would therefore stand;-))

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  20. Anonymous, in my own defense, I have repeatedly stated, in no uncertain terms, that my arguments were based on plausibility, and that I offered no mathematical proof.

    The question is whether it is plausible to assume that the stories of Exodus and Sinai were either introduced later or "evolved" over time. I maintain that this is highly implausible for the reasons I discussed on XGH's blog. But I never said "impossible". Only "highly implausible".

    David, I have difficulty with the numbers in YT"M, only because the later censuses in the midbar seem to be quite precise and yield the same number. What's your take on that?

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  21. Personally, I think it reasonable to assume that many of the Jews married Egyptian women, as Yosef did, and this accounts in part for the large numbers. We should also keep in mind that Pharaoh himself states that the Jews are "rav v'atsum mimenu", more numerous and powerful than us, implying that the population of Jews - perhaps including Egyptian spouses - had begun to outnumber the "pure" Egyptians. This would actually not be so hard to reconcile with the population data we have about Ancient Egypt.

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  22. Rabbi Maroof,

    You have a point however as we know numbers in Chumash are significant not in their value but in what they tell us. Cassuto does a very nice job explaining the ages of the early generations of man as you have also argued in your posts and comments on your blog. I have not put myself to analyze the numbers in the counts and I am not good at it, but I am sure there is some pattern. Just the question of the small difference (and the smaller number in the later one)between the two counts over a span of 40 years clues you in to that. Also see the Chizkuni Bamidbar 26:51.

    Re the conjecture about the women I love the Midrash on the wives going out to the field bringing the food all dressed up and ending up romantic under the apple tree.

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  23. Science and Religion1/19/2007 8:15 AM

    "There is a universe which seems to have as a cause an entity we refer to as God. (Note I did not say 'create" just cause.) If we want to get an answer on why are we here and how should we act, it would seem that searching for some kind of understanding of how that entity works would be quite productive."

    I agree with the tenor of the statement and with the sentiment of many of the comments. To take up the discussion in your own terms, my own particular problems with faith are that I BELIEVE very strongly that a search for truth cannot be separated from the search for God.

    Yes there are clear areas where we have no problem. The prime mover idea is one. I cannot challenge that with any stronger argument and it is certain that science knows nothing about what happened before the universe began or what is now beyond the bounds of our universe. That leaves room for God and I have no problem with that as an article of choice. I choose to believe or not without much intellectual handsprings.

    What I do have an issue with is when insitututional Judaism rejects objective truth in order to defend the historicity of its beliefs or the objective knowledge of its sages. Rashi couldnt know what we know about the physical universe, he didnt have the tools.

    In my view the reason that skeptics are so vociferous in these debates are there are so many people on the other side willing to challenge their beliefs claiming magic and superstition as literal fact, or scientific proof on the other hand as to the historicity of Judaism and threatening people who disagree with a Herem.

    In essence, they are denying my BELIEF, MY FAITH, that the search for God and the search for truth cannot be separated and that any attempt to subvert the truth in order to preserve a traditional way of looking at something is just plain wrong.

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  24. Science and Religion You have very eloquently said exactly the way i think. It is therefore important to enlighten those who question that the fundamental approach is wrong and not truth therefore far from God.

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  25. I meant fundamentalist's approach is wrong.

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  26. Science and Religion1/19/2007 8:41 AM

    So really your point is that the debate needs to be moved away from arguing about the veracity of this or that particular statement or event and towards a higher level of understanding of what faith really means within a Jewish context? If so, I certainly agree with you as well.

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  27. That is correct. It is a philosophical-theological issue rather than a discussion of history.

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  28. >You are the biggest proof that Torah system works. You, a self avowed non observant Jew, are one of the most religious men I know. You live in Israel, half of your children are observant notwhistanding their non observant upbringing and you are busy trying to understand why you should or should not believe in God. Torah Machzeret al achsanya shela!

    I don't see, David, how that makes me a religious person.You could say the same about Richard Dawkins,who seems to know well the Bible(Ours & the N.T) & other religious lit.& as I read by him he celebrates Christmas & Easter & other trappings of Christian culture.IIANM,he even was in a seminary in his youth.But I don't think you can call him,or that he considers himself,religious.. Unless,you think that all people who take a keen interest in religious lit.& are sometimes even obssessed by it,are religious people.That would make most skeptics,agnostics & atheists religious.( may I add,that the skeptics & believers need each ..)

    I am a product of being born into a religious family,& of my education & circumstances,AS WE ALL ARE. I can't ,& HAVE NO DISIRE to disassociate myself from that culture.Whilst we never were halachicly observant,the home breathed with Jewish culture & I undestood my childrens' need for rituals. That some of them are now observant,didn't just come out of the blue.

    But as for my personal beliefs,here are a few of them as they occur to my mind.
    1. I don't believe in a PERSONAL GOD. Who created the physical laws,or nature, whether they always existed or some mysterious power caused them,is irrelevant.Since the power,nature & the laws are impersonal.
    2. It follows from 1. that I don't believe that a God gave the Torah to the Israelite people.I find the all idea absurd.The same goes for all the Torah Sheb'al Peh.
    3.I respect & treasure the Tenach & to an extent the "Oral as being a great lit.& as being the heritage left to me by my people.But no more than that.
    4.I don't believe in an afterlife.No one has ever come back to tell us about it.
    5.I don't believe in any metaphysical uniqueness of the Jewish people.
    6.I DON"T BELIEVE THERE EXISTS ANY TRUE METAPHYSICAL SYSTEM!
    7.I live in Israel not out of religious reasons but for a combination of reasons: family,cultural,languages& quite a few others.
    8.Meaning of life: meaning to me means making life as bearable as possible for the short duration we are here on earth.We are all on the same boat & it only seems right that we should all make an effort to make our voyage to the inevitable doom as pleasant as possible.. Beyond that there is no meaning.
    9. The burden of proof on religious matters- Scripture,miracles,afterlife,etc-the onus is upon the believer to prove them,not the other way round.
    10.I find most discussions on the blogs as not really being sincere & you never know when one is being sincere. There is the *yetser ha-hitnatschut* for its own sake & that can easily lead to intellectual dishonesty.Few people,if any,commited to certain believes,will come out & say they erred.
    These are just some random thoughts I have. Now you tell me if you still consider me a religious person(in the narrow sense)!

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  29. >Now you tell me if you still consider me a religious person(in the narrow sense)!

    LOL. I consider you religious both in a broad and narrow sense. It is those that:

    אבל החושב על האל ומרבה להזכירו בלי ידיעה, אלא בעקבות דמיון גרידא, או בעקבות אמונה שקיבל9 מזולתו - הרי, לדעתי, לא רק שהוא מחוץ לבית ורחוק ממנו אלא גם אינו מזכיר את האל באמת ולא חושב עליו, כי דבר זה שבדמיונו ושהוא מזכירו בפיו אינו תואם שום נמצא כלל. אלא הוא בדוי. דמיונו בדה אותו, כמו שהבהרנו כאשר דיברנו על התארים28. אין ראוי להתחיל במין זה של עבודה1 אלא לאחר התפישׂה29 השׂכלית


    are definitely not religious - maybe observant - but not religious. On the other hand you are struggling with the issues so in my mind you are religious.

    Re 1. a personal God is one that we make personal. It is not something that is just there. read my posts on Hashgqacha.

    Re 2 and 3 - I believe 3 gets you a little closer to divinity. It depends how you understand TMS.

    4> Nisht geferlich.
    Hil Teshuva 8:8. Look it up Mechon mamre is down.

    5. Me neither.

    6. your number 1 seems to contradict that.

    7. According to rav Soloveitchik you are accepting the Brit Mitzraim though questioning Brit Sinai. Not bad for a Kofer!

    8. You seem depressed.

    9 and 10. I agree. On 9 I would change prove to accept.

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  30. רמב"ם הלכות תשובה פרק ח הלכה ח
    here is hil teshuva 8:8
    זה שקראו אותו חכמים העולם הבא לא מפני שאינו מצוי עתה וזה העולם אובד ואחר כך יבא אותו העולם, אין הדבר כן, אלא הרי הוא מצוי ועומד שנאמר אשר צפנת ליראיך פעלת וגו' ולא קראוהו עולם הבא אלא מפני שאותן החיים באין לו לאדם אחר חיי העולם הזה שאנו קיימים בו בגוף ונפש וזהו הנמצא לכל אדם בראשונה

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